By KARINA EID | Intern
Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church recently welcomed Reverend Matt Hardin into its community, naming him pastor and head of staff in January 2021.
Although he joined the staff amid the COVID-19 lockdown, he explained how Zoom and socially distanced worships still offered “a strong sense of community” nonetheless.
The church resumed in-person services on May 16 while still “trying to keep numbers low” and abide by the county’s guidelines.
“It was fantastic,” Hardin noted.
In the near future, there are plans to increase capacity, as COVID-19 case numbers continue to decrease, since the church can hold about 70 to 75 people.
While the pandemic has incited unimaginable hardships, Hardin shared he is sure Pali Pres will persevere through these difficult times and grow even stronger.
Hardin grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. As a young child, he was not raised in a particularly Christian or “heavily religious household.”
In fact, he only began attending church around middle school, at the age of 14, with his mother. During this impressionable time, he said the church was “a great foundation” for him “to find peace.”
Looking back, Hardin shared that he also recognizes and appreciates the church for providing him with answers and wisdom. However, it was not until after college that Hardin discovered his desire to become a pastor.
Hardin said that working in this field allows him to expand on his prior interests, which include studying religious text and “working with words.” Plus, he strongly values forming connections with people, “on a deep level,” about struggles, challenges and joy.
Before this, though, he worked in Washington, D.C., but later moved to North Carolina to pursue his dream of becoming a pastor—despite never studying religion in college. There, he worked at a small church where he was the only staff member, which, after a while, caused Hardin to feel “burned out.”
As a result, he moved across the world to Tokyo, Japan, feeling “ready for anything” and seeking a change. So, he earned a position as a pastor at an English-speaking church there; subsequently, he spent the next five years in Tokyo where he also met his wife.
Nearly half a decade later, the couple began searching for a new place to raise their future growing family. In 2013, they moved to Los Angeles and shared that they “fell in love” with the city’s attractions, though it “took some getting used to.”
Hardin said he felt “rather surprised” at the sense of a “reverse culture shock.” Later on, he and his wife decided to start a family and are now the proud parents of two boys.
In LA, Hardin began by working as associate pastor at a church in Westwood. Then, in January 2021, Hardin accepted Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church’s head pastor offer.
In a recent conversation with Hardin, he communicated his appreciation and gratitude for the position as well as the church’s warm welcome. In addition, the Palisades’ “small town community vibe” charmed Hardin, making him and his family feel right at home, as they both come from small towns.
“Matt is currently pursuing his Doctor of Ministry degree in the field of men’s spirituality, an area of special interest to him since being introduced to the work of Richard Rohr in 2010,” according to the Pali Pres website. “Matt serves as the Los Angeles Region Coordinator for Illuman SoCal, a global not-for-profit organization committed to supporting men who are seeking to deepen their spiritual lives.”
Looking toward the future, Hardin shared that he hopes to encourage and carry on Pali Pres’ accepting ideals.
“No matter who you are, you are welcome here,” Hardin explained, adding that he lives by this statement as both an individual and a community leader.
To reinforce the church’s inclusivity, Hardin stated that the “doors are open for anyone to worship” and embark on “the journey of faith.”
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